Here’s a fun bit of fluff, pretty much literally. Osaka resident Kazuki Yamamoto has shot hundreds of pictures of his latte art and posted them to his Twitter account over the past year. He covers a wide variety of subjects: real people, anime characters, animals, landscapes, videogame characters, Disney icons, and of course, film characters, particularly from Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro. Looking at his creations day by day, it’s possible to see his work—and his photography—get steadily more sophisticated. And much like the movie industry, he’s working in 3D more often over time. No word yet on whether that makes his lattes harder to pirate in theaters and Torrent at home. —Tasha Robinson
The Cinerama Dome, a landmark for L.A. filmgoers, opened to the public 50 years ago today. This 2-page ad for the theater appeared in the L.A. Times on Nov. 3, 1963.
This year, in observance of the anniversary, the theater again screened the first movie it ever showed, “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.” (Times film writer Mark Olsen notes that the movie played for over 66 weeks the first time around.)
In a 1963 article on the Dome, then-Assistant Real Estate Editor Frank Mulcahy noted that the theater’s design wasn’t the only thing new about it. Among other innovations, it featured a “photo-electrically activated smoke detection device which will clear the lobby of [cigarette] smoke” — not the sort of amenity you hear about much anymore.
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MARTIANS DESTROY CITY HALL! Well, a model of it, at least. The replica was built (and destroyed) for the 1952 production of “War of the Worlds.” Scott Harrison at Framework, the L.A. Times photo blog, has the story.
Photo: May 8, 1952: Los Angeles Times staff photographer, using a high-speed 35-millimeter camera, was present during special effects filming for the movie “War of the Worlds.” Credit: Phil Bath / Los Angeles Times / UCLA Archive
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Gravity Talking Points. In summary: Don’t forget to breathe.
And probably go see it, if you trust resident film critic Kenneth Turan, who said of the new film (without GIFs, sadly):
"Gravity" is out of this world. Words can do little to convey the visual astonishment this space opera creates. It is a film whose impact must be experienced in 3-D on a theatrical screen to be fully understood.
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Spin-offs planned for “Breaking Bad” and “Harry Potter”
It looks like seven books, eight moves and an amusement park just isn’t enough Harry Potter, with author J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. partnering once again to adapt her book “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” into a new film series, with Rowling taking screenplay duties.
As for “Breaking Bad,” which is in the middle of its fifth and final season, AMC announced yesterday that shady attorney Saul Goodman will get his own show set before the main series titled “Better Call Saul.”
So which spin-off are you most excited about?
Photos: Ursula Coyote / AMC, Lefteris Pitarakis / Associated Press
Orson Welles: Obituary writer
The last written work from the man known for revolutionizing film with features such as “Citizen Kane” and “The Third Man,” wasn’t a script, but an obituary published by the Los Angeles Times back in 1979 for his friend, and legendary director in his own right, Jean Renoir.
The story behind Welles’ foray into posthumous reporting was recently recounted by former deputy editor of the Sunday Opinions section, Steve Wasserman, in a piece for the L.A. Review of Books, which we 100% recommend reading.
A snippet of Welles’ obituary, as it ran in the Sunday paper, is seen below:
As for his conclusion to the piece:
I have not spoken here of the man who I was proud to count as a friend. His friends were without number and we all loved him as Shakespeare was loved, “this side idolatry.” Let’s give him the last word: “To the question ‘Is the cinema an art?’ my answer is ‘What does it matter?’ … You can make films or you can cultivate a garden.
Both have as much claim to being called an art as a poem by Verlaine or a painting by Delacroix… . Art is ‘making.’ The art of love is the art of making love… . My father never talked to me about art. He could not bear the word.”
Photo: Steve Wasserman / L.A. Review of Books
Enter the Bruce Lee statue
Film and kung fu legend Bruce Lee, who broke barriers on the silver screen and television with his all-too-short career in the 1960s and 1970s, has been honored with a 7-foot statue in Chinatown’s Central Plaza.
Following the 40th anniversary of Lee’s sudden passing, and Chinatown’s 75th year in Los Angeles, the statue will be on permanent display once local businesses raise the $150,000 needed to install the bronze Lee.
For a glimpse into Lee’s significance for many of his young fans:
John Kreng, 44, staked out a spot with his friends hours before the statue’s unveiling, trading Bruce Lee stories and reminiscing. Growing up half-Thai and half-Chinese in an all-white neighborhood in Maryland, Lee’s films were inspiring, Kreng said.
“Here’s this hero who looks like me on the screen,” Kreng said.
Photos: Robyn Beck / AFP
Basically the best latte art collection ever, and well-suited for a coffee-intensive Monday.
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Is a bigger screen always better?
There may still be plenty of box office successes, with recent summer releases like “Iron Man 3” and “Fast & Furious 6” raking in tons of cash, but theaters nonetheless are feeling the squeeze from online streaming services, digital purchases, improving hardware at home and other non-cinematic media.
From Terrell Mayton, marketing director for Carmike Cinemas Inc. of Columbus, Ga.:
"It’s all about the sizzle, it’s all about the showmanship. When you’ve got an experience that you can’t duplicate in the home setting, that’s going to encourage more people to come to the theaters more often."
So do you agree, is it all about the “sizzle,” or is, perhaps the movie on the screen more important?
Photo: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times
Benedict Cumberbatch and the joy in playing the villain
The Times’ Gina McIntyre recently sat down with rising star Benedict Cumberbatch to discuss his sudden ascendance and his role in his first major blockbuster, “Star Trek Into Darkness.”
Though the film debuted last week, we won’t spoil Cumberbatch’s long-hidden role (how long the secret remained hidden surprised even him). But he has won acclaim for his performance in the film.
As put by New York Times critic A.O. Scott:
“Mr. Cumberbatch, pale and intense, has become the object of a global fan cult, and it’s easy to see why. He fuses Byronic charisma with an impatient, imperious intelligence that seems to raise the ambient I.Q. whenever he’s on screen.”
And, as one would imagine, that “fan cult” extends to Tumblr.
For the full chat with Cumberbatch, head over to Hero Complex.
Photos: Jennifer S. Altman, Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times, Zade Rosenthal / Paramount Pictures
What does it take to re-invent Disney animation?
After years of being overshadowed by Pixar’s films, Disney’s animation wing is slowly building momentum with two upcoming films: 2014’s Marvel adaptation “Big Hero 6,” and the fairy tale musical “Frozen,” (concept art for both can be seen above), and successful releases like “Wreck-It Ralph” and the short “Paperman.”
And though Pixar may have received the lion’s share of attention, Disney animation is taking several cues from the creators of “Toy Story,” and “Finding Nemo,” who were brought into the Disney fold in 2006.
The new team instituted management practices that had worked at their pioneering Emeryville, Calif, start-up. They launched a “story trust” of directors who consult on one anothers’ projects, rebooted a defunct short film program to spur innovation and eliminated layers of executives a filmmaker needed to hurdle to get to the studio chief.
Perhaps most significantly, they told artists and animators accustomed to a studio-wide culture of avoiding risk that failure was an inevitable part of trying something new.
Read the full story of Disney’s efforts for its in-house animated studio to once again top the box office over at Movies Now.
Ray Harryhausen, stop-motion master, passes away
Special effects maestro Ray Harryhausen died today at the age of 92. One of the earliest masters of his craft, Harryhausen was the longstanding king of stop-motion animation, with his work defining films like “Jason and the Argonauts” and “Clash of the Titans.”
From our obituary for Harryhausen:
In the pre-computer-generated-imagery era in which he worked, Harryhausen used the painstaking process of making slight adjustments to the position of his three-dimensional, ball-and-socket-jointed scale models and then shooting them frame-by-frame to create the illusion of movement. Footage of his exotic beasts and creatures was later often combined with live action.
Photos: L.A. County Museum of Art, Peter Macdiarmid, Hulton Archive / Getty Images
Scouting the Sierra for movie backdrops
There are birdwatchers, urban explorers and Instagram-centric photo hounds - but some people take their time to explore the barren expanses of California’s backcountry to find the iconic backdrops used in many Hollywood films.
From one couple with a particular penchant for finding famous backgrounds:
At one point, Carol held up a photograph of a campfire scene in “Django Unchained,” which is set in the South just before the Civil War. She moved the photo to the left, then to the right. She squinted, then broke into a smile.
Pointing to a nearby rock, she said that actor Jamie Foxx “stood right there.”
Read more, and see more scenic vistas, over at Framework.
Photos: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times
Looking back at the origins of kung-fu films
The latest installment of Movies Now’s looks back at classic Hollywood examines the sudden surge of kung-fu flicks that followed after Bruce Lee’s classic “Enter the Dragon” in 1973.
From Stephen Chin, who donated his huge collection of kung-fu posters to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences:
"There was an intensity, realism, dynamism and energy to this stuff that no one had ever seen before."
And, of course, the posters for even the lesser-known kung-fu films are still fantastic.
Photos: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Stephen Chin collection, Bruce Lee Enterprises
This weekend’s box office champ “42” isn’t the first film to bring Jackie Robinson’s story to the big screen - Robinson, oddly enough, actually played himself in the 1950 film “The Jackie Robinson Story.”
Today marks the 66th anniversary of Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball, with teams around the league marking Jackie Robinson Day. All players will be honoring the Hall of Fame inductee by wearing his number: 42.
Above, courtesy of our archives, is a shot of Robinson, Joe Nadel, and Al Green on the set of “The Jackie Robinson Story.” on Feb. 14, 1950.
Photo: Los Angeles Times